Dear Diary, once again, I’m faced with the sudden realization that time has gotten away from me. Lately, I find myself reflecting on my life and how I got to where I am. Was it by accident? Fate?
Whatever the cause, it’s been a good life so far with blessings I can’t begin to count or keep track of.
I may as well begin by catching you up on the children. Charles is now fifteen and a strapping boy who is very helpful to his parents and always willing to pitch in.
Laurent is thirteen and nearly his older brother’s height already. He still excels in studying and I think Alice is probably right that he will take up healing some day. He is her best pupil.
Ah, the twins, Lissie and Carrie. Remember how sweet and funny they were?
They are now seven and as adorable as ever. Lissie is on the left and she is the family tattle tale. I don’t mean that in a nasty way because, honestly, there are things a mother may not be aware of that she needs to know. For instance, it was because of Lissie’s timely information that I was able to get to Peace Flow Bridge just in time to stop a certain Marty-Girl (who had been dared) from jumping off into the water below.
Carrie doesn’t bother herself with tattles and such nonsense. No, she’s concerned about what she will look like when she grows up. Will she always look like Lissie? What if her husband mixes them up? I have explained to her a million and one times that she doesn’t need to worry about such things quite yet.
And here is our five year old, Susan. Since I didn’t write any entries while she was still a toddler, I’ve included pictures from then along with a current photo.
Susan reminds me a little of Laurent. Not just because she has the same coloring, but there is a certain quiet curiosity about her. She is extremely shy, however, she does sometimes tend to wander off if she becomes interested in something or other that needs further exploration. Much like Laurent, she will read anything she can get her hands on, even at this young age.
Oh, but I bet you’re asking yourself whatever happened to Marty and her hair?
In the years that have passed, her hair has grown back just fine and we’ve kept it short to her liking. It’s her hair after all and I’d rather pick another battle, another day, then deal with this minor thing.
Anyway, she is eleven now and I am kind of dreading her teen years. Just a little.
More than a little.
And it’s Marty I will begin with. This morning, bright and early, she was already putting up a fuss about our plans for the day.
“But Bootsie and I already have plans,” she complained.
Shaking my head and firming up my voice, I said, “Bootsie can come with us. We haven’t been on a family picnic for a while and I thought you really enjoyed swimming.”
“I do, but not when Bootsie and I were going to loot Appleby Castle!”
Groaning, I tsked at her. Appleby Castle. Again. Ever since reading about kingdoms and castles, they’d been alive in her imagination to the point where, in her mind, she was a great conqueror.
“You’re just going to have to deal with Appleby Castle another time,” I insisted.
Alice tried to contain her laughter as she sympathized with Marty. As soon as I turned around, I was confronted by the twins.
Looking from one to the other, I realized I could not tell who was whom. “Aren’t you supposed to wear your hair differently from one another?”
Stifling giggles, they shrugged their shoulders as if they’d never once in their lives heard that request. This was a new game.
“Are you two ready for our picnic later?”
They shared a look and then nodded, angelic smiles hiding their cleverness in fooling me.
“Perhaps,” I thoughtfully began, “the two of you should stay home, though. You look a little peaked. Are you ill?”
“We’re not sick, momma!”
As soon as she opened her mouth, I knew who I was speaking to. “Lissie, are you sure? You look so flushed.”
“I’m just fine,” she declared.
“And I am, too!” Carrie chimed in.
“Well, that’s good to hear. I was getting worried for a minute.” And with that, I took note that Lissie was just a hair shorter than her look alike. I was determined they would not fool me again, since this would, undoubtedly, become a favorite pastime for them.
As I walked away from them, I heard Carrie say, “If momma couldn’t tell, how will our boyfriends? I told you our husbands are going to get mixed up someday! It will be awful!”
Glancing back, I saw Lissie’s nose wrinkle in disgust. “I don’t want a boyfriend! Boys are disgusting!” Then, as an after thought, she added, “Except daddy. And Charles and Laurent.”
Bending down, I caught Susan up in my arms. I would never get tired of her affection.
“Momma,” she whispered in my ear, “I could have told you which one was which.”
“I believe you,” I said with a smile, kissing her soft cheek.
“Let’s tell the boys we’re ready to leave, shall we?”
She nodded, skipping ahead of me to the garden.
We’d had a bad few days of storms which had nearly destroyed everything, so Matthieu and the boys were working extra hard to bring our vegetables back. We usually took great care of our garden for obvious reasons, I mean, this brood can all eat twice their weight in one meal.
As I approached, though, Matthieu smiled at me. “It’s all going to be all right.”
“Oh, that’s so good,” I enthused. “Everything for the picnic is ready when you are. Alice had to run to town but she’ll join us later.”
“We’re definitely ready,” Charles said. “I’m starving!”
“You’re always starving,” Laurent said.
It was a glorious day to be outdoors at the beach. Of course, we settled at our favorite spot. As everyone began eating, I reminisced aloud about the first kiss Matthieu and I had shared in this very place.
“You tell us all the time, momma,” Marty moaned.
“We know all about it!” Lissie agreed, which didn’t surprise me as it was just today I’d learned of her distaste for the opposite sex.
“You children listen here,” Charles said, taking control of his younger siblings. “It might do you all good to know how things were ages ago. Someday, you might like that momma and daddy shared all of their old stories with us.”
Ages ago? Old? I gulped.
Before long, the children were up and running around like wild animals while Charles attempted to oversee them.
“Did you hear that?” I asked Matthieu after we’d cleaned up the mess from our lunch.
“What? The ‘ages ago’ part? Or the ‘old’ part?” he smirked.
“I’m really not looking forward to my next birthday,” I admitted. The thought of no longer being a young adult was just as frightening to me as it had been years ago when, as a teen, I couldn’t imagine being a young adult.
Matthieu had a twinkle in his eye as he said, “I’m having that birthday before you, so at least there is that.”
He must have seen my frown because suddenly, he took my hand, raising my arm above my head….
… and spun me around.
“Don’t drop me!”
“Have I ever dropped you?”
“No, but you haven’t done this in a long while.”
Leaning toward me, his lips brushed mine just as they had all those years ago when we were much younger and watching the stars together.
This kiss had the same effect on me as every previous one had. I lost all sense of anything around me, my lips tingled at his touch and my hands explored the tight, corded muscles of his shoulders.
“Don’t you worry,” he said, his voice husky, “we still have it.”
Staring into his eyes, my love for him overwhelmed me, holding me in a tight embrace as if his strong arms were still wrapped around me.
“I’m so proud of us,” I said, wiping away a sentimental tear.
As he watched the children race for the water to swim, I saw such raw emotion, I could have sobbed. This man loved me with everything he had. It was so clear, he didn’t have to say it.
Yet, he did and in such a way, I will never forget for as long as I live. “I don’t just love you and the children. I cherish you all.”
We held hands as we watched the kids swim and splash in the water.
It wasn’t long before Alice arrived, out of breath and with news I didn’t really care to hear.
“You are not going to believe this,” she said, her chest heaving after hurrying here. “I went back home to make sure Agathe didn’t need me for the afternoon and as I served her and the council tea, they began to talk about Susan!”
“Susan?” I asked, more puzzled than ever. “What would she have to do with anything?”
“As you know, all of the children on the island made pictures for our festival. The council was concerned.”
“About Susan’s pictures?” Matthieu asked.
Alice nodded, barely able to contain herself. My heart began to sink as she explained. “Apparently, all of the children were given rainbows and things to color. Well, Susan colored every last picture she was given black.”
“Black?” I asked, confusion filling my mind.
“Yes, only black. I glanced at the pictures they were talking about because they had them laid out right there. They didn’t want to decorate with them. But that’s not the problem. Because she only uses the color black, even to color rainbows, the council members are afraid there is something emotionally wrong with her!”
Taken aback, I glanced at Matthieu furtively. Were Susan’s emotions troubled? Would only coloring with a black crayon prove this?
“There is nothing wrong with that child, emotionally or otherwise!” Matthieu insisted.
“I’ve never seen anything either but the council didn’t want to hear my meager opinion. I mean, I only spend almost every day with Susan, but whatever.”
“What did Agathe say?” I asked.
“Only that she didn’t think it wise to jump to conclusions and that she would try to find out.”
“Well, gee, that’s a great idea!” I fumed. “There’s one way we can solve this little mystery that hasn’t seemed to have occurred to that stupid council.”
All the way home, my temper was so hot, no one dared speak to me. As soon as we got there, I sent all the children upstairs to get dried off and changed.
When the children were clean and assembled, we told them to go outdoors for a while because we wanted to speak to Susan.
Matthieu, Alice and I gathered with Susan in the living room, but I could tell the other children had not done as told.
Entering the front room, I said, “What is going on out here?”
Charles answered for them collectively, “We don’t think Susan should be in trouble for anything. We haven’t seen her do anything wrong.”
“Is that so?” I said. “What makes you think she’s in trouble?”
“You were awful angry when we left the beach and even muttered to yourself. Then you asked to see Susan and told us all to get lost. We know what that means, momma.”
Allowing my expression to soften, I smiled slightly. These kids may have their quarrels and differences, but they didn’t like to think someone was getting in trouble. “I’m sorry to have worried you all. It isn’t Susan I was mad at, so you needn’t worry. All right?”
After several relieved hugs, they finally marched outside.
“Susan,” I said when we’d gathered again in the living room, “do you remember coloring some pictures for the festival?”
Matthieu and I glanced at each other with concern on both our faces before I continued. “It seems to me, you’ve been using the color black a lot. In fact, I think it’s the only color you used in your pictures. Are you upset about something?”
Confusion passed through her light blue eyes. “No.”
Finally, I asked what we all wanted to know. “Why did you only use your black crayon?”
“It’s the only one in my crayon box that isn’t broken.”
Slowly, my jaw dropped and I looked at Alice.
Matthieu stifled a laugh and said, “We’d best get you some new crayons.”